Sunday, February 26, 2017

Vancouver - The Mountains

In my previous post I wrote about the various hikes I went on before the winters set in. Towards end of November it rained heavily and started snowing at the major hiking places. So it was time to explore the winter destinations around Vancouver. To start with I experienced two snow storms in the city which I am told is a rare occurrence (lets all blame climate change).

So there are 3 major winter destinations where you could ski, snowboard or hike in the snow. Since I relied on public transport, I will list them based on the accessibility from the city.

1) Grouse Mountain:
Reaching there: From Vancouver Downtown take Route 246 (Highland) to Capilano Rd and change to route 236 (Grouse Mtn). Alternatively you can take the seabus from WaterFront to Lonsdale Quay and take the direct route 236.

This is probably the nearest and most accessible location from the city. Once you reach the Grouse Mountain stop, you need to pay for the lift ride to the top of the mountain which is a short 5-10mins ride up.

This has the cheapest ski school and rentals in the Vancouver area. I tried to enroll for ski school here but they were sold out. I would advise visiting their website and registering in advance. With ski option ruled out, I decided to do the Grouse Grind hike. You can rent a pair of snow shoes and follow the trails. You should be good as long as you follow the signboards and stay on the trail.

They also have events here such as choirs singing Christmas carols and various movie screenings.

2) Cypress Mountain:
Reaching there: There is no city transport to Cypress mountain, however there is a shuttle run by the Cypress Mountains company every morning from Lonsdale Quay and returns back in the evening. You cannot reserve seats in this shuttle. They charge a round trip fee of $20 which you need to pay by cash on boarding.

After my Grouse Mountain debacle, I registered for ski school and rentals online. If you plan to do the same then note that there are 2 ski areas here - downhill and Nordic. If you are taking the bus to Cypress make sure you board the right bus to reach your ski area. And if you take the bus then you need to wait till the evening shuttle. There is no bus back in between.

The ski school is a 2hrs beginners course which will teach you the basics and how to maneuver while you slide down. Unless you have a good stamina, I would advise against wasting money on the lift tickets. The lift takes you to the top of the ski area from where you ski downhill. The ski school is fun though I spent most time falling down and getting back up :P

3) Whistler Mountain:
Reaching there: This is around 120kms from Vancouver and takes about 2hrs to reach. There are a lot of buses which take you to Whistler from downtown. I used Epic Rides for traveling from Vancouver to Whistler.

Whistler and Blackcomb are two giant mountains next to each other. There is a Gondola which will take you up Whistler Mountain (30mins ride) and then there is a Peak2Peak Gondola between the top of Whistler to top of Blackcomb (20mins ride).

The view from the top is amazing too.
Apart from these, I had booked a zipline tour which involved snow hike and ziplining between the two mountain. There were 6 ziplines in total with the longest one being almost a km long. There is also a 2km long zipline but that is mostly used during summer.

If you are alone and not planning on staying then I would recommend taking the 5pm bus back as all the lifts and gondola shuts down by 3:30pm. They have themed restaurants at the foot of the mountains where you get good food and beverages.

General tips:
1) Wear thermals/layers as it gets really cold in snow.
2) Wear sunscreen/cold cream/moisturizer as you will exposed to direct sunlight even in the cold weather
3) Carry gloves, the rental places don't give gloves and you will be forced to purchase in case of skiing. Even otherwise have a pair of gloves is highly recommended.
4) Wear comfortable shoes/boots. Sports shoes are good but they get wet when snow melts which will give you cold feet (literally)
5) All these places have good food courts so lunch shouldn't be a problem :)

You might also be interested to read: Vancouver City, Portland, Hikes in Vancouver,

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